No Witch Prayers at Government Meetings

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Officials in Chesterfield County, Virginia, won't have to let a Wiccan priestess open governmental meetings with a prayer.

The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from Cynthia Simpson. The town had invited clergy to pray at those meetings, but Simpson charged most of the invocations have been led by Christians, even as the county rejected her own request to pray.

Wiccans consider themselves witches, pagans or neo-pagans.

Simpson initially won when a federal judge said the county's policy was unconstitutional because it stated a preference for a set of religious beliefs. She lost the next step when an appeals court found that the county had changed its policy by telling clerics not to use the name of Jesus.

The county's attorney says the county's policy is in line with the Supreme Court's endorsement of legislative prayer as long as it doesn't proselytize, or advance or disparage a particular religion.

(Copyright 2005 by the Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

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